The Covenant

Among the 52 chapters of the prophetic book of Jeremiah the most intriguing concept is the New Covenant. Would we like to know what is a ���Covenant��� and why is it called ���New���? In this lesson we have a list of several covenants: Adamic, Universal, Abrahamic, Sinaitic, Davidic and the New. In addition, we have within the larger context of the Bible, the concept of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. What is the meaning of the word covenant? While today we do not use the word covenant in our everyday conversation, we use more contemporary words quite often. We use terms like: a deal, and agreement, an understanding, a plan, a contract, a pact, a promissory note, a demand, a stipulation, an instruction. There are many more synonyms that could be listed, but this gives us an idea of the broadness of the concept of relationships between two or more parties. We can, and should, distinguish between divine (God given and initiated) agreements (covenants) and the political, economic, social, and personal ones. While agreements are always interpersonal, they have many nuances that should be kept in mind.

Some questions will facilitate our discussion of the topic of covenants. Does God have only one covenant with everybody or different covenants for different parties and occasions? To begin with, when there were only two people on earth, the covenant was with ���everybody.��� The Old Covenant was made with Adam before the Fall. That is, God created humans, told them what and how to operate, but did not mention anything about a warranty in case something goes wrong.

Can a covenant be broken? Adam sinned and thus broke the Old Covenant. So the answer is yes. Is the New Covenant a restatement of the Old, or is it a completely different covenant? Is the New covenant a modification of the Old Covenant? What was changed? In both covenants the requirement is the same, but the methods of accomplishing it are different. In the Old Covenant the requirement had to be fulfilled by Adam and Eve. In the New Covenant, God is the active agent that helps us to fulfill the requirement.

Does covenant need to be understood by the recipients. Does the maker of a product have to explain the use of the product? Yes, indeed. Who is the target audience of God���s covenant/s? In Jeremiah, in the context of salvation and life, it is the people. What covenant pertains to us today? Only the one made between God and us. We remember the words: Today if you hear His voice���react. The study of the New Covenant is not merely a historical or theological exercise.

What is the personal goal of our study of the covenants today? To know what are our options in life. So, what is the covenant with Seventh-day Adventists today? Is it the same as the 28 fundamental beliefs, or baptismal vows? No. Every covenant has to be made individually. God instructs us about His work for us, and He works in different ways but the foundation of our instruction is the Bible. The 28 formulations are a partial attempt to facilitate our understanding of God���s plan. A bit of history will illustrate it.

The first time we find a record of an agreement (covenant) in the text of the Bible, it is between God and the created humans, Adam and Eve. This agreement stipulated the basis on which Adam and Eve could continue to operate as the ���rulers��� of this earth. We presume from the context, that Adam was given the rules and regulations that were to govern his behavior as the new governor of the Earth (the operating manual). The most basic of these stipulations was the loyalty to God the Creator and ���owner��� of the Earth. Included in the instructions given to Adam was a warning that rebellion (sin) against the ���sovereign��� would result in death. Adamic Covenants? Obey and live, disobey and the result will be death. For us the question is, was this an arbitrary imposition of the Creator���s will on His creation, or a simple statement of the designer���s law? In today���s world every mechanically produced creation like a watch, car, computer etc., comes with specific instructions of how to operate the product. When we break the designer���s instructions the product will not function properly. When the misuse of the product occurs, the producer/designer will not punish the product with destruction, but rather will try to repair the misused product. This arrangement is called warranty. The original instruction, expressed in the form of the designer laws, remains the same. Then Bible tells us that Adam and Eve broke their allegiance to God. Consequently, they became incapable of restoring their previous relationship to God. Therefore, God made a new covenant (another covenant).

The new covenant with Adam and Eve was to assure them that ���they��� can, and will, be repaired, but they would have to follow some additional requirements proposed by the designer (Creator). To facilitate the recovery process, Adam and Eve would experience, for their sake, some harsh realities of life: hard work and pain. The requirement of complete (perfect) allegiance to God remained the same. Chief actor in this ���new��� transaction was to be God Himself. In today���s terminology we may say: God suggested to Adam, check into my clinic/ repair shop and I will heal/restore your mind (computer?). The stress is on restoration and healing and not destruction and punishment, health and not death. It is interesting that Jeremiah appeals to God in exactly those terms. Jer. 17: 13b-14: Heal/save me and I shall be saved/healed.

Through the past ages God often approached different people with the proposition of a covenant: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Israel as a nation, David and others of whom we do not know today. What happened to those who broke the covenant like Adam and Eve and others, down the ages? God invited them to enter the rehabilitation/reparation/restoration program (the plan of salvation), in order to cure their mental addiction to sin, and to become again partners with God in reclaiming other broken beings, To cure the living broken minds/hearts. We read: come to me and I will heal your backsliding, come to me and I will give you ���peace.���

How do we respond to this New Covenant invitation? An illustration may help us a bit. I will use the metaphor of a computer, symbolizing our minds/hearts. Since my son is a computer expert, he agreed to help me with my computer problems. There is a program which allows The Expert to control my computer from a distance. He gave me the program called ���Team Viewer���. In real/spiritual life, God wants to have complete access to my mind (computer/heart), so that He can fix it and then teach me how to avoid breaking down again, and making my life useless. In Jeremiah���s words, God wants to make a ���new arrangement��� with us today, in which He will write ���a consumer friendly program��� (the Gospel of Salvation) that will alert me to and protect me from viruses, Trojan horses and similar problems. This is a picture of the New Covenant in contemporary terms. God will write His Law, (the Law of the Designer) in our minds. No matter how I try to manage my life/computer I always make it worse. So, God says, let me do it, you watch me, then do as I do, and together���you will become like new. Refurbished, restored, perfectly (fully) operational human being.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7233

Thanks for this insightful commentary on very familiar words and phrases. I can’t imagine how could our ancestors understand those words in Jeremiah 31:33 “…and write it in their hearts…” without any knowledge or anticipation of such realities as we know them today in the computer age.
I’m already eager to present them tomorow in my sabbath school class. Thanks again.

This is the most important & crucial lesson of the quarter.

The new covenant portion, of the SS lesson, doesn’t show until Wednesday and then there is a digression to a commercial for communion on Thursday.

Most class time will probably be spent on Noah & rainbows, Abraham, Moses, Sinai…and maybe San Bernardino leftovers.
How often have you heard a SS teacher say…“We didn’t even get to Tuesday’s part of the lesson”?

The Jeremiah new covenant verses are mentioned twice in Hebrews.(chs 8 & 10)

The lesson texts are basically on old covenant verses.

Most will not hear/learn what is involved in writing law internally, how it happens, what it means, how it is lived/expressed.

I add the sentence , (IN Patriarch & Prophets) immediately following the paragraph portion from PP 372 that is used near the bottom of Wednesday’s lesson section.
Through the prophet He declared of Himself, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart. "PS 40:8

Paul wrote Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

Isaiah 58:13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

How does God write His laws in a human heart that is…
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9

How does a churchgoer make the transition from…Romans 8:7 "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be."
to Romans 8:4 “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”?

How can one delight in the will of God if they are not even taught what it is?

I challenge any reader to ask their SS teacher to go past ambiguity and ask them to explain some details about what is involved in writing LAWs in the heart. It is not as easy as using Team Viewer.

By the way, most contemporary churchgoers are not interested in getting laws written in the heart. They are more apt to want them erased.

Edit for Frank:

I included Rom 7:22 for bait.
7:22 is a progress check because a depraved person does not even delight in the law. There is much animosity about law in Christianity…this is why one constantly hears/reads texts like" We are not under LAW but grace, Christ is the end of LAW… the LAW was our schoolmaster…" I then posted the real experience/relationship of those who will be saved…the transition from Rom 8:7 to Rom 8:4.
The contemporary churchianity trend is toward antinomianism and a very do nothing, passive experience . Like the following point that is posted between our posts.

Any covenant is not one sided. (See Phil 2:12-13)

Ray: to your last post on LAW.
Thanks

The post is convoluted and fragmented. It is the typical religio speak and obscure theology that I hear in church week after week.
The individual sentences are valid yet the application & conclusion are lacking.

Ray: Hebrews 8:8 For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
External LAWS–"Johnny…Say ‘please, thank you, sorry’"
New covenant takes those who cooperate to Jude 24
Also --Psalms 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
There are those who go to church & there are those who are the church.
There are those who have an employee attitude & there are those who have a company attitude.

"When the law of God is written in the heart it will be exhibited in a pure and holy life. The commandments of God are no dead letter. They are spirit and life, bringing the imaginations and even the thoughts into subjection to the will of Christ. The heart in which they are written will be kept with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. All who love Jesus and keep the commandments will seek to avoid the very appearance of evil; not because they are constrained thus to do, but because they are copying a pure model, and feel averse to everything contrary to the law written in their hearts. They will not feel self-sufficient, but their trust will be in God, who alone is able to keep them from sin and impurity. The atmosphere surrounding them is pure; they will not corrupt their own souls or the souls of others. It is their pleasure to deal justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God."
SOP

Frank…Saul was a fanatic Pharisee, warped by peers who corrupted scriptures for selfish & evil purposes. He was in the Rom 8:7 mode. His law keeping was external ritual Pharisee type. How could he persecute the early church if he had the moral law in his heart ?

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Paul’s competence was from God. “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant…” 2 Cor 3:6. Paul was passionate about separating the new covenant from the old covenant. He had no problem defining two covenants.

The ministry of the old covenant, engraved in letters on stone is the covenant from Sinai based on the 10 commandments, law. The letter kills. Sinai was a ministry that brought condemnation, a ministry that brought death. That is the role of law.

Any glory that Sinai had faded at the cross. Why, because the old covenant has been replaced by the new. The new is the glory of the Spirit. The Spirit gives life, something the law could never do. The ministry of the Spirit in the new covenant is now glorious. It is the ministry of the Spirit that brings righteousness.

Whenever the old covenant is read the veil remains.The glory of the new covenant is veiled. This veil is removed in Christ and Christ alone. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” v 17.

We all are called, with unveiled faces, to contemplate the Lord’s glory. That is how we are transformed into His image with increasing glory.

Our salvation and our ministry is centred on the glory of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on Calvary. He became sin for us so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God. What an amazing statement. And it is all because of Christ crucified. He took our sins into His own body on the tree. He became a curse for us. He redeemed us from the curse of the law, He forgave us all our sins. He cleansed us.

It’s all about what Christ has done for us and has done in us and what He continues to do in us. It’s not about us, It’s about Him. The new covenant is the glory of the spotless Son of God who took our guilt and died the death. It’s the glory of the resurrection morning when our Lord rose from the dead, Victor over sin and evil and death. It’s the glory of Christ, seated at the right hand of His Father as our High Priest and Mediator. It’s the glory of Christ, living in our innermost being through the Holy Spirit.

We are not children of the slave woman, the old covenant from Sinai. We are children of the free woman, the new covenant in Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, glorified, He in us and we in Him.Gal 4:31.

We have not come to a mountain, Sinai, … burning with fire … where even Moses trembled with fear. We have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…

We have come to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood…

May the Lord make us competent as ministers of the new covenant.

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Some good points. I would be careful, however, with trying to use Romans 7:22 as an example of the law being written in the heart. In context, Paul is speaking of the conflict going on within him, he acknowledges within himself that the law is holy, just, and good, but sees another law reigning within himself that overpowers this inward appreciation…the law/power of sin. This is not the New Covenant experience being described. In fact, it seems more like the Old.

This describes Israel’s experience at Sinai, when they acknowledged the goodness of the Law, saying they would do it, but six weeks later were having an orgy around the golden calf. It describes the condition of mankind in general, who has the knowledge of good and evil, but finds evil overpowering good throughout our history. It also seems to describe Paul’s own experience as a Jew…he was one who loved the law, but saw that his zeal for it led him to murder Christians…the most horrible kind of legalistic terrorism.

In the end, no amount or issuing of laws can eradicate the problem of evil, whether they are man-made, or God’s. This is Paul’s point in Galatians and in Romans, building to a crescendo in Romans 7. While the Law is not at fault for sin, it is impotent to combat it, and, according to Paul in this chapter, is even hi-jacked by sin as an unwitting partner to exacerbate the human predicament.

Paul’s answer is Christ and his Spirit. This is Romans 8. It is Christ, by virtue of his death, his resurrection, and his intercession who brings us into the freedom of standing before God without condemnation. It is the Spirit who leads us into this new life in Christ, beginning and continuing to enable us to bear real fruit to God, as per Galatians 5. And, our part is to continually keep in step with the Spirit, and by the Spirit, to continually put to death the clamoring of our self centered, and God rejecting impulses, the essence of what the flesh/sarx is all about.

The building of a real relationship with Christ, through the Spirit, and genuine relationships with others, is the core of this experience, and is what enables us to bear fruit to God. Sin thrives in the dark… through disconnection, isolation, and alienation. Christ brings us and our sin into the light, offers us his love, his grace, and his power, and leads us not only to himself and his Spirit, but also to each other, as each other’s wounded healers, as the continual remedy for our situation. Hence, the importance of a healthy church family, that, “… bears one another’s burdens, and so fulfills the Law of the Messiah,” in the New Covenant experience.

Thanks…

Frank

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Gideon, the interesting thing is that these texts are in Scripture - " We are not under LAW but grace, Christ is the end of LAW… the LAW was our schoolmaster…" So what do we do with them?

Rom 8:2 gives us the key for being set free from the law of sin and of death. Let’s not forget that the only thing the law can do is condemn, point out sin and on that basis epose our need for Christ as the Spirit draws us. The law is a ministration of death and condemnation and is powerless to add one iota to our salvation and righteousness. The new covenant provides the righteousness of God, apart from law. Rom 3:21.

We contributed nothing to the setting up of the terms of the new covenant. We contributed nothing but our sinful selves to the justifying work of Christ in our lives. We did nothing to earn forgiveness and cleansing. We accepted it through the power given us by the Spirit to repent. We contributed nothing to our new birth but our spiritual death. Our sinful nature was put to death by the death of Christ, not by any work of ours. Our new spiritual nature is a new creation by God alone. It is God who has written His love into our hearts. Christ’s new commandment is love because God is love - "A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Under the new covenant we live by the Spirit of the living God in us, not by the law. Where do you find the greatest revelation of righteousness? In Jesus who dwells in us or in the 10 commandment law? To live by the Spirit is anything but a do nothing, passive experience. The new covenant of grace in Jesus Christ is real freedom. It is the abundant life. We are ministers of the new covenant. We are ambassadors for Christ who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses to them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

Paul points out in 1 Timothy 1:8 and on that the Law is good, if it is used lawfully, realizing the fact that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, and the list goes on, a list that does not in any way describe a born again Christian.

What does it mean to live by the Spirit and not by law? It’s a question we cannot avoid as born again Christians.

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Gideon, what then is the truth of the new covenant?

Gideon…

Saul of Tarsus was one who did delight in the Law/Torah, and says that according to the righteousness of the Torah, he was blameless. Romans 7 is Paul’s description of his own earlier experience, as emblematic of Israel’s. The Jewish belief was that the law/Torah was life giving, that God created through it, and that occupation with it was the antidote to sin. Hardly a low view of the Law.

The problem that Paul found, was that the law could never deliver any of this, and that in the hands of sin, actually produced the opposite…it provoked and exacerbated sin, and dealt condemnation and death…even to one who was so zealous to keep it. This is what Paul said later in Romans about Israel, who sought the righteousness of God by the works of the Law, and had “…a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” Paul’s own zeal, in his campaign to exterminate the church, stands front and center as the prime example of this.

The solution was when Christ grasped hold of him. It was only Christ, and the power of his Spirit that could cause the scales to fall from Paul’s eyes, and send him in an entirely new direction. It was Christ who redefined what Law was in the life of Paul, centering on an all inclusive love of the other. It was Christ who redefined for him what covenant and membership in the people/family of God meant, no longer confined to a single people group, or to those who majored in religious performance, but open to all people desiring to come in, regardless of their social status, race, ethnicity, or gender.

In these senses, the New Covenant is vastly different from the Old, both as ages of history, and in experiential terms. One cannot go back to an arrangement that Paul said is past, as he delineates in Galatians, that could only deal condemnation and death, as he speaks of in Romans 7, 2 Cor. 3, and Galatians, and that could never produce the good fruit that God is looking for.

If anything, Adventism, with its traditional emphasis on law, has not known what to do with what Paul has said in these letters, and has often sent people backwards towards a type of this fruitless, spiritual experience. The over-emphasis of grace, as you perceive, seems to me to be a corrective to the damage done by a stifling legalism, that is still predominant in various corners of the world church.

Thanks…

Frank

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Adventism hasn’t known what to do with the gospel, as a whole. The BIG hangup is the Sabbath, as it it is woven through every point of doctrine, started in the “corn field”. The IJ is about the Sabbath, as are the predictions of the end-time events that include 1844 as IT creates the time-line - counting backwards, trying to find some event that happened 2300 years before.

The book of Hebrews was written for Adventist as much as it was for the Jews; but we pick at it, extracting verses and parts of verses to prove OUR points of doctrine. As a whole, “Hebrews” elevates Christ above all the Jewish sacred identifying marks - including the Sabbath, which, the writer declares to be inadequate as a source of rest.

The GOSPEL is based on our inadequacy of keeping any of our promises to God - the basis of the old covenant. Man acts out of what is in his heart; and that is why God’s will needs to reside there for us to be compliant to any degree. The New Covenant promises to place His will in our hearts. The hang-up is that the only way it gets there is for us to surrender any ability we have to make that happen. As Adventists, we are told to educate God into our hearts, starting with a weekly time out in the “mothers’;s room”, and ending at some denominational university - the process being more about indoctrination than a “new heart”. The weekly SS time serves the purpose if you hop on in mid-stream of the process.

Jesus said,“Come unto me and I will give you rest”. It’s the “coming to Jesus” part that confuses Adventism - but not exclusively. Nicodemus didn’t get either, and he was speaking to Jesus face-to face. It’s all about “the traditions of men” as the Bible describes what drives our beliefs. It’s difficult to shed centuries of tradition, inside or outside of Adventism - and the mistakes keep compounding, as the organization becomes more desperate to hold on to its reins. And that is the other factor that keeps us tied to tradition - always has been - the need for control. The truth is, man does not always welcome freedom. As they say, “it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.” We would much rather be told what to do, and do it in a bunch. That’s why it’s easier to follow rules than to open your heart in total surrender.

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Yes, Gideon. The issue for someone such as Saul of Tarsus, was what would bring him, and anyone else, into the place where love took the place of human depravity, even in the form of zealous religiosity? The answer is not more law. It is Christ. A life changing encounter, and continual relationship with him. A relationship that is also lived out in connection with a community of believers of all stripes…hence the church of the new covenant.

Thanks…

Frank

I was pondering this question and asked myself, “What would I do if I were God?” After creating the whole universe, with our solar system the size of a sand in a vast beach, would I come up with a concept as we currently have? And if not, how did we come up with a concept as what we do have? Then it dawned on me that the current concept we have and believe parallels the growth of our mental life. We see this in Family Guidance Clinics frequently where a child is born into a set of parents and has to be told what to do until their brain grows and mature and acquires all the abilities to think for themselves at which time all the counsels and teachings are then internalized and written in their “hearts and minds.” The development is uncannily similar to the transitioning from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Have we created a god-representation according to our DNA?

Come over to the Lounge and join us in the conversation.

I suggest that what is written in our hearts is not the 10 commandments that we obey with the help of the Holy Spirit. The righteousness of God is written there. Christ writes Himself into our hearts with a glory that infinitely outshines the letters on tables of stone.

I found these thoughts interesting.

  • The old covenant law says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

The new covenant says, “…and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” “We love, because He first loved us.”

  • The old covenant law says, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

The new covenant says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

  • The old covenant, based on law, says, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also fogive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your trespasses.”

The new covenant says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” “…forgiving each other…just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

These are just a few of the ways in which the new covenant has made the old covenant obsolete, all because of Calvary: Christ crucified, risen and mediating at the right hand of the Father.

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Thank you Leon for this reflection. Much more could be said as the comments indicate.